Crew challenge reigning champ Fire
COLUMBUS CREW (MLS) v CHICAGO FIRE (MLS)
Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, 7:30 p.m. ET
The defending U.S. Open Cup champion Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew meet in a rematch of the 1998 U.S. Open Cup final, when the expansion Fire completed the double with a 2-1 golden goal victory to win the first of their three Open Cups. The Crew have also won one along the way, two seasons ago, and began the road back to the final last month with a tight 2-1 victory against A-League Syracuse in the third round, which they had to contest after failing to make the MLS Cup Playoffs last year.
The Columbus Crew survived a tense third round test against the Syracuse Salty Dogs on June 30 at home, Ross Paule converting from the penalty spot in second-half stoppage time for a 2-1 victory (Edson Buddle 70; Paule 90+ pen - Scott Schweitzer 81). ... Here's Greg Andrulis's team on the night: Jon Busch; Robin Fraser, Eric Denton, Duncan Oughton, Erick Scott (Michael Ritch 80), Brian Maisonneuve, Edson Buddle, Chad Marshall, Ross Paule, Chris Wingert (Devin Barclay 61), Manny Lagos (Kyle Martino 46). ... A year ago, the Columbus Crew's defense of their U.S. Open Cup title came to a sudden end, as they fell 4-3 at home to the MetroStars after losing a two-goal lead. ... Eddie Pope scored twice within nine minutes in the final quarter-hour [Buddle 10, 11; Maisonneuve 43 - own goal (Maisonneuve) 24; Jolley 54; Pope 77, 86] to start the Metro run to their first final in club history - which they then lost to the Chicago Fire. ... Last year was the first time in seven appearances in the U.S. Open Cup that the Crew had been dumped out of the competition in their first match. ... On their way to the '98 final, the Crew knocked off Rochester (2-1 aet), Miami Fusion (3-0) and the MetroStars (1-0), before Frank Klopas gave the Fire victory. Here's the Crew team from that final: Sommer - Dooley, Clark, Iribarren, Smith, Warzycha (Farrell), Maisonneuve (Yeagley), Williams, Elcock, John, McBride ... As one of the two MLS clubs to fail to reach the playoffs last year, the Crew began in the round-of-32 along with the Dallas Burn, a round ahead of the remaining eight clubs in the league.
The Chicago Fire won their third U.S. Open Cup in six tries last year, defeating the MetroStars 1-0 behind a Damani Ralph goal in the final at Giants Stadium. ... The Fire's run to the final began with a 4-1 away victory against Milwaukee Wave United (A-League) (Greg Howes 2 - Chris Armas 14, Ante Razov 34, Evan Whitfield 61, Dipsy Selolwane 80). Then in the quarterfinals, the Fire came back to claim a 2-1 victory at home against a 10-man Colorado Rapids [Beasley 44; own goal (Fraser) 53 - Spencer 11], before Chicago reached a third Open Cup final with a wild 3-2 semifinal victory at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy (DaMarcus Beasley 55, Damani Ralph 63, Ante Razov 69 - Alejandro Moreno 73, Arturo Torres 75). ... The Fire won the final in '98 thanks to the late golden goal from Frank Klopas (Podbrozny 45 pen, Klopas 99 - John 53). Here's the team Bob Bradley ran out that night: Thornton - Kubik (Keller 14/Ibsen 77), Brown, Okaroh, Armas, Marsch, Kotschau (Klopas 91), Podbrozny, Nowak, Wolff, Razov ... The Fire also won the 2000 Open Cup, defeating Miami Fusion in the final thanks to an own goal two minutes from time (Stoitchkov 44; og 88 - Welton 96). ... Chicago also reached the semifinals in 2001, losing on a golden goal to Los Angeles Galaxy (Lalas 94). ... The Fire have been eliminated at the first hurdle twice, in 2002 by the A-League Milwaukee Rampage (Ranko Golijanin 54), and in 1999 to the Rochester Raging Rhinos through a goal from Yari Allnutt on 15 minutes. ... With their three victories, the Fire joined Sparta ABA as multiple winners from Chicago, Sparta winning in 1938 and 1940. Other Chicago winners have been: Chicago Viking FC (1946), Falcons SC (1953) and AAC Eagles (1990).